According to reports, Chinese police arrested a 20-year-old woman named Youdon this week for possessing a photograph of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Youdon was reportedly arrested on July 11, as Chinese authorities tightened their grip on Tibetans in the days leading up to the Dalai Lama’s 87th birthday on July 6, which many Tibetans celebrated despite heavy restrictions, according to RFA.
The police “accused Youdon of acting together with her sister Zumkar for keeping a photo of the Dalai Lama in their home. Youdon is Zumkar’s younger sister,” the source said. Zumkar was arrested on June 23.
Youdon was apprehended in Tsarang Township, Amdo County, in Tibet’s Nagchu region.
According to the source, Youdon is currently being held in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, but no further information is available. Zumkar, 27, was arrested first after police discovered a photo of the Dalai Lama on an altar, a sacred part of Tibetan households where religious objects such as statues and scriptures are kept and prayers are offered.
Another source in exile living outside of Tibet confirmed Youdon’s arrest to RFA.
RFA reported last year that 20-30 Tibetans were arrested around the time of the Dalai Lama’s 86th birthday.
Other homes in the area have also been investigated by Chinese authorities for having images of the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing accuses of being a separatist leader advocating Tibetan independence, according to RFA.
The Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), which represents Tibetans in exile, advocate a political solution in which Tibet remains a part of China but Tibetans retain some autonomy over their own cultural and linguistic affairs.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has escalated its anti-Tibetan campaigns, punishing Tibetans for possessing banned photographs of the Dalai Lama and cracking down on Tibetan language speaking and teaching.
Despite increased security, a Tibetan inside Tibet, according to a source, “who write essays and articles in praise of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the occasion, and the articles are widely read and shared on social media“.